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CSSA Positions on Federal Legislation - 2008

12/22/08 Letter to Law Enforcement and Victim Services Division of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services re support of the funding for Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Services*Training*Officers*Prosecutors (STOP) grant program.

California State Sheriffs’ Association (CSSA) offers its support of the funding provided to the California Emergency Management Agency (formerly the Office of Emergency Services), on behalf of the State of California, under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Services*Training*Officers*Prosecutors (STOP) grant program.  This program has proven to be an important and positive effort to reduce violent crimes against women.

8/13/08 Letter to Congressman Alcee Hastings re CSSA Support of HR 5698 the “Restoring the Partnership for County Health Care Costs Act of 2008,” which would enhance the federal-local partnership in covering medical expenses for inmates.

California Sheriffs recognize the critical issues related to health care systems in our jails. Specifically, the cost of inmate medical care has become an increasingly heavy burden on our financial resources.

Under current law, individuals who are inmates of a public institution are not eligible for Medicaid, Medicare, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and SCHIP benefits. As a result, local governments become responsible for paying for the federally-mandated health care to incarcerated individuals. Fulfilling the constitutional obligations under Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976), which mandates that inmates be provided health care, constitutes a major portion of local jail operating costs.

HR 5698 is an important step forward to ensure that local governments do not continue to shoulder the burden of covering these medical expenses, but that we work as partners in fulfilling our obligation. Furthermore, the proposed measure would allow individuals in custody to maintain the continuity of health care when they are newly-released from custody.  To help break this insidious cycle, HR 5698 would remove inmate limitations on Medicaid, Medicare, SSI, and SCHIP benefits for persons in custody pending disposition of charges.

8/13/08 Letters to U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives re CSSA Support of Restoration of Funding to the National Institute of Corrections (NIC).  Funding for the NIC has been proposed to be eliminated in the federal budget for fiscal year 2008-09.

The California State Sheriffs’ Association requests your support and advocacy to restore funding for the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), which has been proposed to be eliminated in the federal budget for fiscal year 2008-09.

Since 1974, NIC has provided professional services for the field of corrections.  As an agency, NIC works to identify and assist in key areas of corrections and also provide services for individual agencies.  NIC provides specialized consulting services in the form of technical assistance, and the coordinated effort of providing funding, training, research, and consulting to address specific issues.

California Sheriffs rely heavily on NIC as a resource in areas such as:

  • Valuable training opportunities,
  • Networking with other professionals for problem solving and solutions, and
  • Providing services in effective planning, management, and operations strategies that provide constitutional, ethical, humane, safe, and cost-effective prisons, jails, and community corrections programs and facilities.

7/30/08 Letter to U. S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey re CSSA Support of the position taken by the National Sheriffs’ Association opposing the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission’s proposed standards under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).  CSSA reviewed the Commission’s proposed standards as they apply to adult jails and facilities holding immigration detainees. California Sheriffs concur with the analysis conducted by NSA and agree that there are significant faults in several of the proposed standards and changes need be made prior to implementation.

California Sheriffs serve as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in each of California’s 58 counties and we are keenly aware of the significance of sexual assaults in our jails. Sheriffs understand the importance of the action taken by Congress in enacting the Prison Rape Elimination Act, and we agree that eliminating sexual assault should be a high priority in a professionally and morally managed correctional environment.  Sheriffs and Jail Administrators are faced with many difficult and expensive operational issues and the cost of caring for those incarcerated in local jails continues to rise.  The Commission’s proposals as currently written would create significant additional costs and an unfunded mandate, adding to the financial hardship we are already experiencing across the state. Contrary to the intent of Congress, the Commission’s proposals represent substantial additional costs, which is in conflict with PREA statute mandating that national standards may not impose substantial additional costs compared to the costs presently expended by federal state and local prison authorities.

5/9/08 Letter to Senator Patrick Leahy, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, re CSSA Support of S 2587, which will significantly improve the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP).

CSSA strongly supports modifying the SCAAP reimbursement criteria as provided in S 2587, so that our jail facilities can be reimbursed for the costs associated with incarcerating both convicted and charged undocumented criminal aliens. We believe that such a modification is both judicious and consistent with the legislative intent of SCAAP.

Under the guidelines established in 2003 by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), counties are no longer able to request reimbursement for undocumented criminal aliens that are charged with one felony or two misdemeanors.  Furthermore, the new BJA standard creates a gap in reimbursement if the incarceration period and the conviction do not occur within the same fiscal year.  Under BJA’s ruling, jurisdictions lose the right to be reimbursed for all pre-trial incarceration if the undocumented alien is not convicted until the subsequent fiscal year.  We are hard-pressed to find any sound justification for such a rule. The simple modification provided by S 2587 would greatly help cash-strapped counties recover a portion of the costs associated with the responsibility of incarcerating undocumented immigrants.

4/25/08 Letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer re CSSA Request for Hearing and Passage of HR 3547 (Schiff, D-CA), the Gang Prevention, Intervention and Suppression Act.  HR 3547 will increase and enhance law enforcement resources committed to investigation and prosecution of violent gangs, would establish new laws and tougher penalties against those who commit gang-related crimes, authorize funding for witness protection programs, and invest in successful community programs to deter our young people from joining gangs in the first place.

The bill increases penalties for gang-related crimes with longer sentences, and strengthens the penalties for gun possession or use by these criminals. It would expand the FBI’s Safe Streets Program to support criminal street gang enforcement teams. It would also designate certain locations as High Intensity Gang Activity Areas (HIGAA’s) and provide that these areas receive assistance in the form of criminal street gang enforcement teams.  The teams would be comprised of local, state, and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate and prosecute criminal street gangs in each high intensity gang activity area.

Criminal gangs are no longer a “big city” problem, they are an “every city” problem.  In California and across the nation, communities everywhere are suffering from the criminal activities and destructive lifestyles of gangs.  HR 3547 is a much-needed tool in helping to reduce gang violence.

1/9/08, 2/28/08 and 3/4/08 Letters to U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives re Urge Restoration of Funding to Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program.  CSSA expresses our very strong concern with the cuts that have been made to the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) and strongly urge that the funding be restored in the pending Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill.  The cuts represent a 75% drop in funds from $520 million in FY07 to $170.4 million in FY08. This is a severe reduction from what both the House and Senate included in their Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bills just a few months ago. Since FY 2002, funding for Byrne/JAG has fallen dramatically from $900 million to now, $170 million – a cut of more than 80 percent.

Byrne JAG has allowed states and local law enforcement an opportunity to partner and innovate in areas such as crime prevention and control, drug courts, information-sharing strategies, gang prevention and suppression and the reduction of homegrown methamphetamine laboratories and their tremendously destructive effects, among many others.

A cut to Byrne JAG is a cut to local law enforcement, who are the nation’s first responders. At least three-fourths of every Byrne JAG dollar goes directly to local sheriffs and police departments. The remaining is used to support drug interdiction, substance abuse prevention and treatment, crime victims’ support programs, community corrections, rehabilitation, offender re-entry and juvenile justice programs. It is also the only source of federal funding for the multi-jurisdictional drug task forces.